Archive | February, 2011

Daring Baker’s: Panna Cotta & Florentine Cookies

27 Feb

As you are reading this I am probably having a fabulous time in San Francisco (And getting ready to head to Lake Tahoe for snowboarding and snow tubing and other fun stuff!), so I’d like to make you feel better by showing you this fabulous panna cotta I made for Daring Baker’s.

When I tasted this panna cotta, it tasted EXACTLY like a melted vanilla milkshake. You can really taste when you are using vanilla beans and vanilla extract, there’s just that extra OMPH of vanilla flavor. Now, if you don’t like melted vanilla milkshake then there is probably something wrong with you.

To be honest, the panna cotta was a little on the extra jiggly side, but I think it was still a success for it being my first time! If you want your panna cotta to be extra creamy, substitute the half and half with heavy cream.

Then, pairing the panna with these beautiful florentine cookies? Oh man, that’s just way too much. I originally wanted to make these into round cookies, however the cookie dough was a little too runny and basically turned into one big sheet by the time I took it out of the oven. Oops? Well, the important thing is that they still tasted fabulous.

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Florentine Cookies

As seen on Food Network

  • 2.5oz sliced, blanched almonds
  • 1.5 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp grated orange zest
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp half and half
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2.5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 oz dark chocolate
  • 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a food processor add the almonds and pulse until finely chopped. Stir together the nuts, flour, orange zest and salt in another mixing bowl.

Put the sugar, half and half, honey and butter in a small sauce pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it comes to a roiling boil. Continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, then pour into the almond mixture and stir to combine.

Pour the mixture onto the baking sheet and spread evenly. Bake 10-11 minutes, turning pan once, until golden brown.

Let cool for 10 minutes, then using a sharp knife, cut into about 15 pieces. If some of them break, that’s ok!

While they are cooling, fill a small saucepan with water and bring to a simmer. Combine the chocolates and melt until smooth. Once the cookies are cool, place about 1-2 tsp of chocolate on every other cookie and then sandwich them with the other plain cookie. If you want, drizzle more chocolate on top and on any broken pieces. Let them dry completely on a wire rack.

Panna Cotta

As seen on Food & Wine

  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, insides scraped
  • 1 1/8 tsp gelatin
  • 1/5 tbsp water

In a small saucepan, combine the half and half, sugar and vanilla bean. Bring the mixture to just a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, cover and steep for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand until evenly moistened, about 5 minutes.

Uncover the cream mixture, and reheat over medium high heat to just a simmer again. Remove from heat, and stir in the gelatin until dissolved. Remove the vanilla bean. Pour the mixture into ramekins and let cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

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Guest Post w/ Jeni of JeniFriend Photography – How to Shoot Great Photos

25 Feb

When I was planning my wedding I stumbled upon The Knot which is a website with everything wedding. It’s a little overwhelming, so I found myself hanging out on the boards. They have boards for everything, whether it be where you live, if you’re having a destination wedding, to the specific month and year you are getting married. When I joined that board I didn’t realize that I would make some magnificent friends.

One of them is Jeni, who is a professional wedding and lifestyle photographer based in Kansas City. I’m pretty sure if Jeni and I lived in the same city we would be best friends, because she is so full of life and energy and is just a great person overall. Jeni takes amazing photos, and if you have a chance, please head on over to her blog and website and check it out.

I am REALLY excited that she has decided to blog about food photography. As many bloggers know, the PHOTOS really tell the story. Sure, you can write a 500+ blog entry about the fantastic meal you made last night, but without great photos, the excitement can be really toned down for your readers. I hope you enjoy Jeni’s post and that you learn a little more about taking great pictures!

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Aside from blogging about the various sessions I capture for the totally awesome families and couples who hire me, I really like to…how do I say this without being all hoity-toity…well…I like to blog about myself. Okay, not really myself in the first-person, but about my life and the adventures I have with those I love. Are you getting the jist of this? Either way…I talk about myself and my life and my family alongside photography. Today…I talk about food. Specifically…how to capture it so it doesn’t look revolting in camera.

First things first…food presentation. Take into consideration what plateware you’re using for your food. I may use the blue bowl for my chili when I’m sitting on the couch catching up on Jersey Shore, but I’m going to use the white bowl instead when I’m taking a picture. The food is your focus – ensure that it remains that way by selecting plateware that enhances the food.

Next up…location. As a natural light enthusiast, I avoid the use of artificial lighting. Living in an apartment, my kitchen doesn’t have any windows, so I have to relocate my setup to somewhere that does. Utilize what you have around you – I am a fan of tv trays, benches, railings…whatever, again, enhances but doesn’t take away from my image…

This picture was taken on a tv tray in my living room.

Next up…lighting. I typically photograph in the daytime so I’m able to take advantage of natural light. In my opinion, natural light allows any image to appear more real. Face your food towards your light source…

Or…place the light directly behind your food and allow it to cast a nice glow, as seen above with the water glass.

For those of you who are late-night bakers and can’t afford to wait until the sun comes up to take your pictures, invest in a white box…or if you’re like me…create your own with the use of white poster board, a white bedsheet, etc. Remember, the color you choose as your backdrop will be cast upon your food.

White is a natural reflector, so it’s going to give you additional light by bouncing around the existing lighting you have access to, and it’s not going to tint your images (which creates more work in post-processing).

Experiment and see what works for you in your food photography. Don’t be afraid to get up close and personal with your food…

group like items together and create a full-bodied image…

or include people…

I’m not a professional food Photographer by any means, but these are the tricks that have helped me in creating images ideal for my blog posts that pertain to delectable edibles. Have fun taking pictures and celebrating the moments!

 

Not Your Average Chocolate Chip Cookie

22 Feb

A chocolate chip cookie with olive oil??????? Wait, and there isn’t any butter in it?? Are you sure there shouldn’t be butter?  Will they even TASTE good??

Yeah, that’s what I thought when I first read about these cookies that replaced the butter with olive oil. I was skeptical at first, but then I tried one of these suckers and was immediately sold.

Granted, these will NOT by any means replaced a good old fashioned chocolate chip cookie, but it’s nice to have once in a while. The addition of the olive oil makes for a crispy cookie, not a chewy soft cookie, but that’s ok! And you can certainly taste the olive oil, but in a pleasant way.

So, if you are looking for a non-traditional chocolate chip cookie and dare I say, maybe a healthier cookie? (I did the Weight Watchers comparison and it shaved off a point or two for each cookie), then I would give these a try.

Not Your Average Chocolate Chip Cookie

As found on baking = love

  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside. In a big bowl, beat eggs till frothy.  Add olive oil and vanilla and beat until completely mixed.  Add sugars and mix thoroughly. Slowly add in flour mixture a little at a time and mix in with a knife.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Roll into tablespoon sized balls and place 1 inch apart on the baking tray.  Flatten a tiny bit with a fork or just with your fingers.

Bake for 16 – 18 minutes until lightly golden brown.  Allow to cool a little on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Well loyal readers, with this post I will be out of commission for the next week because I will be in SAN FRANCISCO!!!! Don’t fret, I will take a million pictures and share them all with you when I get back. But don’t worry! You’ll still get your fill of Kitchen Misfit! I have a couple of guest posts that I am REALLY excited about, plus a Daring Baker’s post so it’ll be like I’m still here! Ta Ta for now!

A Birthday Cake for my Mom

20 Feb

Today is my Mom’s 60th Birthday! I’m not really sure how it’s possible that I have a Mother that age, because she certainly doesn’t look/act/feel like 60. Just don’t tell my Mom how old she is, according to her she’s stopped counting.

Momma fixing my wedding dress

My Mom was born on the island of Terceira in the Azores. I’ve been there a couple times, but not since I was about 3 or 4. She immigrated to the United States in the 70s and married my Dad in 1984 and I came along in 1986. (Sorry, no embarrassing pictures this time around).

My Mom’s always supported me with everything I’ve wanted to do and been my biggest cheerleader and defender. She’s can be quite the little firecracker sometimes and I’d like to think that’s were I get my feisty-ness from. She’s also a great cook. Not only does she make some fabulous bread, but she makes the best Portuguese kale soup EVER (Yes, I’ve asked her for the recipe).

She knows how to have fun and I know I can tell her anything and if anything is wrong I can tell her and she’ll be there for me. I couldn’t ask for a better Mom.

So I just KNEW I had to bake the perfect cake for her.

My parents and I at my wedding

Isn’t she cute?

But let’s back up a moment, shall we?

Cake’s are my enemy. I don’t know what it is about cake baking but it NEVER goes right. I can never get tall and fluffy cakes. The filling always falls out. I make a mess. The frosting breaks.

I’d like to say that the cake gods were watching over me with this cake, but then I would be lying to you.

First, the 3 layer cake that I made barely reached a total of 3″ high. Then the pineapple filling I made was too runny. And of course I got flour and whipping cream and everything on the kitchen counter. Many tears were shed (Thank God for an amazing husband). I was so upset that I immediately signed up for a cake baking class at the BCAE. ::sigh:: The things I do for my mother.

Blowing out the candles! (With my Dad looking on)

But, in the end, everyone loved the cake, and my Mom kept eating the toasted coconut that was left on the cake stand. Don’t get me wrong, the cake was DELICIOUS (and I realized that I should have added more filling to the cake, but whatevs) and everyone really enjoyed it, especially my mother, but of course I was striving for perfection.

The inside of the cake was sweet and moist so I countered that with a very light frosting and covered the cake with toasted coconut. The flavors balanced very well.

Even though it wasn’t as tall as I was hoping for, it was still a pretty cake, don’t you agree?

Coconut Cake with Pineapple Filling

Cake recipe adapted from Baked Bree, Pineapple filling adapted from Food & Wine

Coconut Cake

  • 12 oz cake flour sifted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 2/3 cups softened butter
  • 1 cup warm coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 350. Line 3 9″ baking rounds with cooking spray and parchment paper. In a stand mixer, beat egg whites on high until foamy then slowly add 2 tbsp sugar until stiff peaks form. Set aside (I put mine in a separate bowl so I can use the stand mixer again)

Combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In the stand mixer combine the butter with 1.5 cups of sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.

Add flour and coconut milk, starting and ending with the flour until combined. Then add the vanilla. Carefully fold in the egg whites until combined and then pour the batter equally into the 3 pans. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack. Wrap them in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge until you are ready to use them

Pineapple Filling

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup pineapple puree
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1/2-1  cup prepared whipping cream (see recipe for frosting below)

In a saucepan combine the sugar and cornstarch and whisk. Then add the egg yolks and puree and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick for about 6 minutes. Add more cornstarch if it’s not thickening. Remove from heat and add the butter one tbsp at a time. Cool in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Frosting

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • coconut flakes, for the top

In a stand mixer beat the whipping cream with the sugar until soft peaks form. Add the coconut milk and vanilla extract and beat until medium stiff peaks form.

When you are ready to put together your cake, add part of the whipping cream to the filling until it reaches the desired consistency. I actually ended up not using all of the filling, so do it in small batches first.

To assemble your cake put a bit of frosting on the bottom so the cake stays in place. Carefully layer with the pineapple filling, then another layer, then the filling, and the final layer on top. Frost your cake. It doesn’t have to be perfect because you are just going to put toasted coconut on top!

To toast your coconut you can either put it in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, turning once or twice until browned on all sides. Or you can toss the coconut in a saute pan and cook until brown on all sides.

Place the coconut in the freezer for about 15 minutes so the coconut will cool down and not melt your cake. Once cooled, add to your cake. Refrigerate your cake for at least an hour before serving!

 

Restaurant Review: Wagamama

17 Feb

I feel like Wagamama has some kind of cult like following all over the world. People just love Wagamama. Every time I’ve gone to a Wagamama, whether it is in Harvard Square or Faneuil Hall it’s always PACKED. I just don’t get it!

I mean, let’s be honest here, Wagamama is ok but it’s not like the end all be all of noodle dishes. Yes, I enjoy that everything is freshly made and that the food comes out when it’s ready and doesn’t sit under a heat lamp for 20 minutes (I wish more restaurants did this), but every time I go I feel like I’m having just a mediocre meal.

In case you are unaware of how Wagamama works, they basically write this equation on your paper mat of what you’ve ordered. I don’t know how they make sense of this, but it seems to work.

For our appetizer (which actually came AFTER our meals came) we went with the Wagamama Glazed Ribs. I enjoyed these a lot, the meat was very tender (fall off the bone even!) and had the right amount of sauce. Definitely the highlight of the meal!

For my meal I had the chicken chili ramen. It was pretty tasty, but I wish there were more veggies and accoutrements included. This reminded me a lot of Pho, except that it was more expensive and not as flavorful. Granted, I liked it, but I wasn’t over the moon about it. The hubby basically got the same dish but without the spice.

Our particular table was great for people watching (And people attempting to park watching) as it looked out on the fringe of Harvard Square.

The service was less than stellar. After our meal was served our waiter basically forgot about us. And not to mention it took probably about 20 minutes for us to get the bill. Granted, we weren’t in a hurry, but it was still kind of annoying!

So the verdict on Wagamama? If your trying to introduce yourself to the world of noodle dishes then come here. If you are bringing your country bumpkin family to the big city and want to introduce them to something “exotic” come here. If you’re in the mood for a chain restaurant and don’t feel like going down the street to Uno’s, come here.

If you want delicious (and cheap) noodles or something a little more authentic, head some where else.

Wagamama on Urbanspoon

Daring Cook’s: Tempura & Cold Soba Noodle

14 Feb

I am a big tempura fan. Whenever I get sushi I always get something that has tempura in it. One of my favorite maki is Sweet Potato Maki. There’s just something about the crunch of the outside and the delicious starchiness on the inside.

I had ambitions for the tempura. I originally wanted to make shrimp and sweet potato tempura for the Daring Cook’s Challenge but unfortunately I 1) didn’t have enough oil and 2) pretty much had a Julie and Julia moment trying not to freak out over the tempura (Just ask my husband).

It’s a good think I left the tempura last because I’m pretty sure I would have given up on the second part of dinner. I’m pretty sure my tempura batter was a little on the runny side, but the taste and the crispiness was still there.

I paired my sweet potato tempura with a vegetable medley of edamame, baby bok choy (which I think has a better flavor than regular bok choy) and some leftover cabbage that I had. I of course spiced it up with some Sriracha sauce, obviously.

For a dipping sauce I went with a spicy peanut sauce that was slightly on the thick side, but still delicious!

To be honest, I probably wouldn’t go and make tempura on a regular basis, but it was definitely a great learning experience. And the soba noodles? LOVE THEM. I need to make cold noodle dishes more often.

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com

Cold Soba Noodle Salad

  • 1 package soba noodles
  • 2 cups edamame
  • 1 baby bok choy, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup sliced cabbage
  • 1 tbsp sriracha sauce
  • 1 package mixed oriental mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • peanut oil

Cook the soba noodles according to package directions. Rinse thoroughly with cold water once cooked. Pat dry with a paper towel and place in the fridge until you are ready to use them.

In a medium saute pan heat about a tbsp peanut oil. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then add the bok choy and cabbage and the rice vinegar and soy sauce and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add the edamame and mushrooms and Sriracha sauce and saute until the mushrooms have slightly shrunk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the fridge until you are ready to plate.

Spicy Peanut Sauce

Recipe adapted from here

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 shallots, diced finely
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 5 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2-3 tbsp Sriracha

In a small sauce pan heat butter until melted. Add the shallots and cook until they are tender. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer until it thickens. Refrigerate until you are ready to eat.

Sweet Potato Tempura

Recipe Source: Here & Here

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, and cut into strips, then blanched and cooled
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup ice water (I put a bowl of water in the freezer while I made the cold noodle salad)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Oil for deep frying

Heat oil in a heavy pot to 320 degrees. There should be about 1.5-2″ of oil.

Place ice water in a mixing bowl and in another small bowl mix the egg yolk. Slowly incorporate into the ice water. Add flour, cornstarch and baking powder and stroke with chopsticks until loosely combined. If you can, leave the batter in an ice water bath to keep cool.

Lightly dredge the sweet potatoes in some flour and then place in the tempura batter. I did about 4 pieces at a time, for about 2-3 minutes per side. Place on a drying rack and sprinkle with salt when done.

I did this all with chopsticks and almost died (ok, I’m exaggerating). If you are not comfortable using chopsticks then by all means use tongs. Oil burns are not fun.

To plate, combine the soba noodles with the vegetable mix and top with the tempura. Serve with peanut sauce on the side.

Boston Brunchers @ Dorado Tacos & Cemitas

10 Feb

I have been wanting to go to Dorado Tacos & Cemitas ever since they opened in July of 2009 (Side note: I totally thought they opened in 2010, how sad is that?) So when I saw that the Boston Brunchers (Headed by Renee over at Eat.Live.Blog) were going to have their February gathering their, I pounced, fast.

Dorado is pretty tiny, but the wonderful rainbow of colors and the huge windows make it seem much bigger. But pretty much all 16 of us Brunchers took over the entire restaurant. It’s a good thing they opened early for us.

It was a toss up on whether I wanted coffee or hot chocolate this particular morning, but needless to say caffeine won this time. I was really tempted to ask for half coffee and half hot chocolate though.

There was pretty much no question on what I would be enjoying this fine Sunday morning. HUEVOS RANCHEROS. I had been salivating over them since I had signed up for the brunch. I mean, just look at how amazingly beautiful they look? And I wish I could have taken a picture of this, but almost all of the other Brunchers got the rancheros. That’s just how awesome they are.

I’d like to talk about these patatas bravas for a moment. Now, I am usually a hash brown kind of gal, but these crispy potatoes were pretty amazing. And that spicy tomato sauce? I would like a carton of that please. I almost licked the plate clean that sauce was so good.

But let’s go back to the huevos rancheros, shall we? They had a nice spiciness to it, and the eggs were perfectly runny. And the queso fresco? Pretty much made the dish. I could have eaten 4 more plates of these, but as I am trying not to gain any more weight, I declined.

I checked into Dorado via my Yelp app and was rewarded with a FREE agua fresca. Let me tell you, attempting to drink hot coffee after consuming a spicy meal is not advised. I went with the hibiscus tea variety, since I’m not a huge fan of cucumber melon. I mean, I like the smell, but not the taste. The hibiscus was awesome and quenched my thirst amazingly.

Oh, and did I mention I got all this deliciousness for less than $10? Crazy, I know.

Dorado, I’ll be back.

Dorado Tacos & Cemitas on Urbanspoon

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